UK risks surge in homelessness, says MP

Warning that a quarter of a million people are at risk of eviction over the next few months

The politician Thangam Debonnaire MP, who has spoken previously about the influence of her Quaker roots, has warned that without proper safeguards in place, the UK faces a deepening homeless crisis with renters facing eviction just as the economic fall-out of Covid-19 bites.

Speaking in an interview in The Guardian at the end of last month, the shadow housing secretary called for much more to be done to help rough sleepers, the newly homeless and the ‘hundreds of thousands’ of tenants at risk of being evicted due to rent arrears owing to the pandemic.

The government last week announced that renters facing eviction were to be offered a reprieve but only if they lived in areas under lockdowns. Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, confirmed that court proceedings for evictions would restart in England and Wales on 21 September after being suspended in March. He also announced a ‘truce’ on enforcement action over the Christmas period unless for serious cases such as domestic abuse.

The MP for Bristol West said that the government underestimated the scale of the problem, with more people facing high rents with reduced wages and increased job insecurity.

‘The announcement shows that the government is gearing up for a drastic increase in evictions this winter, just as coronavirus cases are rising. They are threatening public health and putting lives at risk.’

Writing in The Guardian and quoting research from the housing charity Shelter, she said: ‘There is the possibility that there will be a quarter of a million people who are at risk of eviction over the next few months at exactly the time when we are going back into the autumn and a possible [second] spike in Covid.’

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